Pen and paper reads are very common, even now. What could be easier than taking a piece of paper and a pen and collecting the reads? Or, if you’re feeling fancy, maybe you put together an Excel file that prints out the previous read and gives you a spot to write the current read. Fast, and easy, right? And if an age of ever expanding to-do lists, that is a huge help. Here are 9 reasons to photograph your reads instead of writing them with pen and paper.
1) Older Meter Issues
Blank sheets of paper are only reliable on new and tidy meters. If you have older analogue meters, you are prone to misreads due to droopy needles. That means you're going to need to maintain an Excel file with the previous reads at the very least. If you are transcribing pictures, you can have a spreadsheet with the previous read and usage handy for quick read checks.
2) Usage History
There is only so much you can put on a read document and it still be legible and useful (and not take hours to update each month). How many times a month do you need to go back out into the field for rereads because you didn’t have access to the usage history for the space and misread the meter? If you are taking pictures, you can just pull it up again and verify the read in minutes.
3) Real Reads vs Daily Averages
How much time do you spend running daily averages each month? When you photograph your reads, you can pull up the picture and check the real read, and not create an estimation of what it might have been. There's a form of working the system called spiking. It's when a resident has exceptionally high usage one month and then complains about it later. Sure the new read you pulled was right, but why did the daily average go from 10 to 35 to 15? The normal solution to that is to average it over the period and adjust the bill down. But with a picture, they pay the full amount due in the appropriate tiers.
4) No Physical Storage Needed
When you photograph your reads, pictures go from your phone or camera onto your hard drive or the cloud. Read transcriptions stay on your computer or the cloud and never need to be printed out. You have the records available at the click of a button but don’t have to dig through hard copies to find them when you need them. That 7 to 10 years of documentation won’t take up any room in your file drawer and you're keeping it green!
5) Archive Quality
Most read documents are not printed on archive quality paper or written with ink that will last. What do you do when you pull an old read doc and it’s faded nearly to nothing? Files on your hard drive are always fresh!
6) Assist with Write Ups
How many times have you had a note jotted on the read document about a lock only to have it mysteriously disappear when you go over to check it? How do you easily support the write up with nothing but your maintenance person’s word? It’s hard for residents to argue a picture of their fence with a lock (that's actually locked) on it. What about tampering? How do you prove that magnet in your hand really came from their meter? A picture of it on their pedestal with their home clearly in the background will speed up that discussion.
7) Less Time to Read the Meters
I know it sounds crazy, but it takes less time to have someone walk the property taking pictures and then transcribe them in the office than have someone go through the property with a pen and paper and here’s why: Fewer resident questions in the field. It takes less than a minute to walk up the drive, take the pics, and get back out again. They’ll rarely notice you’re there with the new method.
8) Fewer, Shorter Read Debates
So, you’ve double checked the reads you collected, but the resident isn’t convinced you read it right. If you can misread once, you can do it again. How long does it take for the pair of you to resolve it to everyone’s satisfaction? If you photograph your reads, you can show them a picture and teach them to read the meter themselves.
9) Less Time in the Field
You only need to send someone to revisit the space in the case where you were unable to collect a read at all. Potential misreads do not require any field time to resolve because you can pull up the picture from your desk and show it to the resident.
Ready to save time and trouble? Photograph your reads every month! That gives you verifiable good reads, evidence of issues you can include in write ups, saves time and file space. I know it sounds like it’s going to take so much longer and be more work, but in the big picture, it will save time, trouble, and money. See The Ultimate Guide on How to Photo Document Your Meter Reads for information on how to get started!